What is a Bitter?
Bitters are herbs that have a predominantly “bitter” taste. These remedies have an increasingly apparent major role in holistic healing, herbal treatment, and especially that of preventative medicine. Because of their troporestrorative effect (wide effect) on the body’s physiology they help enormously in treating the body as a whole.
How Bitters Work
A chemical principle that is present called “The Bitter Principle” This is often a volatile oil, an alkaloid or sesquiterpene. Did you know that bitter tasting herbs have a very direct relationship with the nervous system and the entric nervous system? When bitter taste receptors on our tongue (and throughout our digestive system) detect the bitter taste. As “unpleasant” the taste may be, that taste signal is sent via the gustatory and vagus nerves to the brain to prepare the body for digestion, when the message is received in the gut one of the digestion hormones, gastrin is produced.
Thus, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and digestive secretions (including bile from the liver, insulin from the pancreas, and digestive enzymes from the stomach) are released. In this way, bitters not only improve the digestibility of food, but also have a calming effect on the nervous system, putting us in a more emotionally relaxed state. Allowing us to digest our food properly. As eating during stressful times, or when the sympathetic nervous system is activated inhibits the absorbtion of key micro and macro nutrients.
How to pick a bitter that is right for me?
Having a solid comprehension of the energetics in each herb, and the energetics of the person seeking healing is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.
Are you someone who is always cold? Then it is best advised not to use a cooling bitter like gentian, use mugwort instead. Pregnant, TTC, or lactating? Consult a certified herbalist who can help educate you on what bitters are safe during pregnancy, and how to dose the bitters to use them at a phytotherapy level. Do you have dry skin, creaky joints, and brittle nails and hair? Best not to use a drying bitter like rosemary—try a more moistening root like dandelion.
THE BITTER TAKE AWAY
- Stimulation of appetite during convalescence
- General stimulation of the flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum and liver. This aids a great range of problems tat have their basis in inefficient or allergy distorted digestion
- Aid the liver in it’s work of detoxification and increase the flow of bile
- Regulatory effect upon the secretion by the pancreas of the hormones that regulate blood sugar, insulin & glucagon
- Help the gut wall repair damage through stimulating self-repair mechanisms
Medical Herbalism (David Hoffman)
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safey (Mills and Bone)
The Home Physician Dr. Christian Fanger (1918 edition)
Clinical Herbalist Training (Herbal Academy)
Science and Art of Herbalism (Rosemary Gladstar)